If the game of Novak Djokovic were a stock, it would be a blue chip every bit as azure as the courts of Oz.
But it’s taken some hits lately. Still loaded with value, an elbow injury has been a drag on performance.
Warning: Do not day trade this stock. It’s too risky to expect great things in the near term at the 2018 Australian Open. Buy now. Buy low. Hold.
A six-time champion Down Under, let’s look at why Djokovic is so iffy for this tournament.
- Overuse injury: Djokovic retired in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon last season because of a hurt right elbow. Then he announced to the world it had been bothering him for over a year. Injuries that require surgery take a more predictable trajectory. Overuse injuries that are healing on their own make up a timetable known to no one– not even the world’s best doctors. After periods of rest, the athlete “tests” the injury to see if it’s healed. As of December, Djokovic was still in the testing phase, working with his coaches on court at home in Monte Carlo. Last week, he showed up in Australia wearing a sleeve on the elbow that he hadn’t been wearing in those December workouts. Translation: Injury status highly uncertain.
- New Service Motion: Djokovic said he changed his technique on the serve, abbreviating the motion, to take stress off the elbow. The new motion brings the racquet directly back after the toss, instead of letting it loop down first. In truth, from the point of acceleration, the motion is almost identical to what it was. The whip on the elbow is still there. Whether this change will help the injury is extremely unclear, especially since the technique is brand spanking new.
- New Racquet Flirtation: Djokovic was photographed testing a new racquet with a different string pattern in December. It’s possible he was also testing different racquets as a means of protecting the elbow. At his exhibition match last week, when he beat Dominic Thiem, he appeared to use his old racquet. Time spent using a new racquet is less time preparing with the old standby.
- New Shoes: Nole recently signed with Asics. It may seem trivial, but for a guy who’s struggled with blisters on his feet– this is no small thing. Djokovic also famously painted over the swoosh on a pair of Nikes he was wearing at Wimbledon. He was endorsed by Adidas at the time. Shoes are a big deal, and these new bad boys haven’t been tested on these particular feet in extreme heat during 5-set matches.
- New Coaches: Hello! This is perhaps the biggest change of all. Where to begin? He’s using 8-time major champion Andre Agassi, the recently retired Radek Stepanek, a strategy guru, a fitness and physio team, and a spiritual advisor, among others. His teams have teams. This has to be one of the largest support staffs in the sport. It’s a lot of chefs in the (gluten-free) (vegan) (eco-friendly) Djokovic kitchen. The biggest change could be that Agassi is so different in overall approach from Boris Becker, who encouraged net play and helped Nole to six Grand Slam Titles.
- New Child: There’s another human being on the planet who calls Novak “Dad.” Or at least she will when she starts talking. He’s human. Anyone would be affected, though the overall effect could be quite positive. Just because a stock is volatile doesn’t mean it’s a bad bet– it’s simply a risky one. Chances are the 30-year-old Serb will figure out what works for him because he’s a smart player who thrives on information. He’s also a winner.